Carbon and Climate

This page covers the below sections: 

See the Contents for all available Sustainability Hub pages. 

Economic Growth and Climate Change

Economic growth needs to take place in a way which ensures the effective protection of the environment and the prudent use of natural resources. The environmental consequences of economic policies have often been ignored. Global threats such as climate change must be limited, hazards such as poor air quality must be reduced and the natural resources that people value, such as wildlife and the landscape, should be protected. Natural resources need to be used efficiently and renewable resources, such as water, should not be used in ways that could endanger them.

In a report published in early December 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) declared that a third of natural World Heritage Sites are threatened by climate change(1).

The Paris Agreement is a legally binding international treaty on climate change, within the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC). It was adopted by 196 parties at COP 21 in Paris in December 2015(2).  COP stands for Conference of the Parties and it is the decision-making body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to below 2°C, whilst at the same time pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, to limit warming to 1.5°C it will be necessary to lower carbon dioxide emissions by about 45% by 2030 (compared to 2010 levels). Even limiting global warming to 2°C will require transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy by the middle of this century(2).

At COP24, held in Katowice Poland in December 2018, procedures and mechanisms were agreed to make the Paris Agreement operational(2).

The reduction of carbon dioxide emissions is essential for the aims and goals of the Paris Agreement to be achieved and has become a key measurable for governments and companies to demonstrate their commitment to the reduction of global warming.

Implications for Businesses

Businesses must therefore consider their impact on the climate and look to reduce the carbon dioxide linked to their processes. This may not just be their direct carbon dioxide emissions but also those of their supply chains.

There is increased public awareness of the effects of climate change. Consumers are changing their lifestyles choices to ensure that they can lower their carbon footprint, believing this is one of the few ways in which they personally can influence global warming. This may be by swapping to electric or hybrid cars, by recycling as much as they can, or changing their diet to avoid foods reportedly linked to global warming or to the environment more widely. Consumers are keen to understand the impact of their purchasing choices and may move away from products and brands if they believe that they are not sustainably sourced or have a high impact on the environment.

Companies are increasingly looking at ways, not just to reduce their carbon footprint and that of their products, but to find ways to demonstrate that they are doing this.

One way of demonstrating an organisation’s commitment to decarbonisation, and the neutralisation of remaining impact through the support of environmental projects, is to obtain carbon neutral certification. This can be achieved by certifying, either an organisation or a product, to PAS 2060(3).

PAS 2060 is an internationally recognised standard for carbon neutrality. It was developed by the British Standards Institute (BSI). PAS (Publicly Available Specification) is a fast-track standardisation document developed by a steering group of stakeholders led by BSI. It is a way to establish the integrity of an innovation or approach(3).

PAS 2060 builds on the existing PAS 2050 environmental standard and sets out requirements for quantification, reduction, and offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions for organisations, products, and events(3).

Corporate commitment to renewable energy is an accelerating trend that illustrates the importance of clean energy, it can also bring financial benefits(4).

Certification Schemes

A number of different third party certification schemes exist which allow companies to provide third-party assurance of aspects such as carbon measurement, reduction, and neutrality claims.   Companies may advertise their certification through such schemes with a logo or other information on the product label.

A life cycle product carbon footprint measures the total greenhouse gases generated by a product, from extraction of raw-materials to end-of-life, measured in carbon dioxide equivalents. Several different labels are available.

Repeatedly completing questionnaires on a company’s performance, in various areas, is a time-consuming exercise attached to which can be considerable expense. The same can be said of requiring suppliers to complete multiple questionnaires on various aspects of their business. Just assessing a supply chain can be extremely complex, involving many geographical areas, multiple standards, and regional regulations. It is also difficult to understand how a company compares to other similar companies and how performance can be improved.  Third party companies are available to help assess businesses for overall sustainability.  Measurement criteria include the environment, ethics, labour, human rights and sustainable sourcing.


CDP is a not-for-profit charity, founded in 2000, who run the global environmental disclosure system. Supporting companies in making their environmental impact transparent and giving them understanding of how they can reduce their impact(5).

In November 2020, the UK Government announced its intention to make Task Force on Climate-regulated Financial Disclosures (TCFD)-aligned disclosures mandatory across the economy by 2025(6), with a significant portion of mandatory requirements in place by 2023(6). Using a platform such as CDP’s enables companies to comply with these new regulatory requirements, whilst promoting to the shareholders, employees, and customers the work they are undertaking to reduce their environmental impact(5).